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Ukraine

Injured protester Bulatov leaves Ukraine for hospital, as Yanukovych checks out of his

Injured opposition activist Dmytro Bulatov has reportedly left Ukraine for medical treatment in Lithuania. Meanwhile, President Viktor Yanukovych has left a Kyiv clinic after a four-day stay with respiratory problems.

Dmytro Bulatov claimed to have been kidnapped and tortured because of his involvement in anti-government protests in Ukraine. Bulatov emerged with severe injuries on Friday after more than a week missing, prompting EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton to say she was "appalled by the obvious signs of prolonged torture." The authorities accused Bulatov of organizing violent protests, launched criminal investigations, and expressed doubts that he was tortured.

Opposition politician Petro Poroshenko first said that Bulatov would leave the country at the 50th Munich Security Conference, which heavily focused on Ukraine and closed its doors on Sunday. Lithuania's foreign minister later confirmed Bulatov's departure on Twitter.

"Protester of #euromaidan who suffered severe torturing (Bulatov) – on his way to Lithuania for health treatment. Wish good recovery!" Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said on Twitter, using the popular #euromaidan "hash tag" based on the anti-government, pro-EU protests' epicenter at Kyiv's Independence Square, or Maidan.

Lithuania was the first EU country to suggest that Bulatov should receive medical treatment abroad, with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier offering him treatment in Germany at the Munich Security Conference. Steinmeier discussed the issue with his Ukrainian opposite number Leonid Kozhara, saying afterwards that Kozhara agreed to let Bulatov leave Ukraine.

It was not immediately clear whether the criminal investigation against Bulatov had been canceled.

Yanukovych set for Monday return

Ukraine's presidency said on Sunday that Viktor Yanukovych had left his hospital bed after four days receiving treatment for acute respiratory problems.

"After concluding the necessary treatment, the president feels well - his physical condition is satisfactory," Yanukovych's office said, adding that the president was expected to return to work on Monday.

Protests continued in the capital Kyiv on Sunday; estimates for the turnout of the latest major rally differed wildly but all exceeded 20,000 people.

Two leading opposition figures, former economy and foreign minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and recently-retired heavyweight boxer Vitali Klitschko stepped up their calls for assistance from the international community. Yatsenyuk told the crowd it was time for "real financial aid." Klitschko added an international role was needed to avoid "misunderstandings" during negotiations with the government.

The demonstrations began late in November, when Yanukovych canceled an Association Agreement with the EU in favor of closer ties to Russia. The demonstrations have intensified in recent weeks, with four protesters confirmed killed and roughly 500 reported injured.

Yanukovych has dismissed his prime minister and repealed anti-protest laws passed in January that helped prompt more violent demonstrations. He also offered the prime minister and deputy prime minister positions to Yatsenyuk and Klitschko, buy they ultimately declined the offer.

msh/kms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

DW.DE